MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Juilliard’s 2020 Focus Festival: Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century

The 36th annual Focus Festival at Juilliard starts tomorrow with a fascinating program by the New Juilliard Ensemble and its director, Joel Sachs–the first of six free concerts to take place between Friday and January 31. (The clip above is of Mary Lou Williams performing “Roll ’em” from 1944, on the menu for Program III on Tuesday night.)

Joel Sachs, the mastermind behind Juilliard’s Focus Festival tradition, co-curated this year’s edition with Cuban-American composer and conductor Odaline de la Martinez.

If you’re in New York over the next week, it’s really worth considering a visit to one of these amazingly varied programs. Each one is full of discoveries.

The topic, Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century, was of course inspired by a desire to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment being ratified.

Yet, as de la Martinez remarks: “Although prospects for women composers have improved greatly over the last few decades, let’s not forget how much more work needs to be done!”

In this preview by Joshua Barrone (with samples of several of the 32 composers on the roster), de la Martinez goes on to say: ““A lot of these composers have disappeared because people don’t know what to look for. And musicology used to teach only men. It’s about time to make cases for other composers, and women.”

View the complete program

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